By Lord Buckbeak
It goes without question that God has placed us, completely and miraculously, on this earth for a purpose.
But what is that purpose? The Westminster Catechism asks the question this way: “What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
This is certainly a clear and direct answer to the question of purpose for all sentient, created beings – from angels to archangels, cherubim to seraphim, men, women and children – we are all created to glorify God by enjoying his presence forever.
But this answer still begs the question, how do we specifically as humans and as individuals glorify God now, in this life?
I believe the answer to be this: That we, while in this life, must properly and effectively bear the image of God by doing what He did. I fully address the various nuances to what it means to be an image bearer in this blog, so here I will just state the conclusion of that blog as given by Tom Terry.
God says in Genesis 1:26 that man is to rule over the earth. He repeats this idea in verses 27 and 28 when he said to Adam, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
These are very important commands, and they form the first part of the covenant God made with Adam. That covenant is still in place today for you and I. It is God’s covenant with man—regardless of whether man is a believer or not. What did God command man to do?
• Be Fruitful
• Fill the earth
Have you ever wondered why God issued these five commands to man? He did so because in the preceding verse (26) he declared man to be made in his image. These two ideas are inseparably linked.
The answer historically given by the church from Augustine up to the Reformation was that God was only glorified by human activity directly related to His service and worship. Activities involved in the mass or in caring for the poor brought praises and honor to God’s name and therefore glorified Him. In contrast those normal activities that sustained our common life such as building homes, cooking, cleaning, farming, etc., were vulgar, secular, and profane.
This separation of the secular and the sacred led to the common Christian feeling a sense of hopelessness in ever moving forward in his personal sanctification and walk with God while demeaning the common labor necessary to sustain life and provide monies for the church. Income from secular pursuits could only be redeemed if given to the church. Working to better one’s station in life was condemned as greedy or materialistic. This stemmed from an interpretation of Genesis chapter 3 that work was part of the curse God pronounced on man after the Fall.
However with the Reformation and the establishment of the Protestant work ethic, particularly by John Calvin, all honest work was elevated to its rightful place as a blessing from God and a noble and even holy endeavor. The Reformers sought to reestablish the honor in honest labor stating that any work done to the benefit of you, your family and your neighbor was glorifying to God because such work blessed both the worker, through his wages, and the recipient of the labor through the meeting of some need.
And holiness was not simply giving prayers and studying the Word but also included the normal affairs of life such as rearing children, honest labor, and living a pure and undefiled life in the world.
This meant that all believers, not just the clergy, were set apart for God’s service. When any believer lived his or her life with integrity, study, prayerfulness and honor he or she was engaging in the practice of holiness. When a Christian went about his duties – whether cooking or cleaning, mending or building, plowing, sowing or reaping – he was glorifying his Father in Heaven. All things were to be brought captive to Christ – whether rising in the morning or laying down at night, whether work or play or rest – all were to be done to the glory of God in Christ.
Calvin was a student of the Apostle Paul and especially his letter to the Romans. That is why Calvin is known for reestablishing the honor of work and the doctrine of predestination – both concepts largely taken from the writings of Paul. Paul also wrote that those who labor full time for the Lord were worthy of double honor and deserved to be compensated for their work. But at the same time not all pastors faithfully care for their flocks just as not all believers faithfully fulfill their duties to themselves, their families, their neighbors or to God.
Concomitant with the restoration of the value of common labor was the restoration of the priesthood of all believers. That is all baptized Christians were a holy priesthood, a royal nation of kings and queens in the eyes of God. Rather than a separate priesthood with special powers and access to God all believers had direct access to God in Christ. All believers were to be separate from the world and to lead holy and sanctified lives. And when a believer shares the Gospel with anyone he or she is acting as a prophet bringing the very oracles of Heaven to the lost and showing them the way to eternal life.
Much debate has ensued as to what it means to be in the world but not part of it. This is answered by the Apostle John when he delineates what separation from the world means. It is to avoid the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And what does this mean? I think a helpful answer is to note that John is echoing Genesis 3:6 and the Fall of Eve. After listening to the Serpent she believed that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was good for food, pleasant to the eyes and desirable to make one wise. All of which turned out to be wrong. The fruit was actually poison, its beauty was only skin deep, and they became fools who ate of it.
Simply put she rejected the Word of God, listened to Satan’s lies, and followed the lust of her flesh, the lust of her eyes and the pride of life. Yet she and Adam were freely offered eternal life. God commanded them to eat of the Tree of Life which they refused to do. Its fruit was small and unappealing to the eyes. It neither looked good nor gave off any enticing aromas to lure one to eat it. In short it could only be eaten in faith.
What God is saying in His word is that the world is continually offering you poison wrapped up to look like the most wonderful of foods. It entices men to lust after women, and women to lust after money, and people to pursue wealth through fraud. It calls us to believe that if we just had more food, drink and sex we would be happy. Or if we seek out the hidden things of the Spirit through mediums, seances, fortune telling, and the occult we will be wise. It calls us to worship the sun, the moon and the stars and to call Chance our father and the Earth our mother.
The Roman church went too far as it did in many things. It took separation from the world to mean that a holy person should eat drab, boring foods; it was better to be celibate than to marry and taint yourself with sex; and to study anything to grow in knowledge and wisdom of the created order was to seek after forbidden knowledge. It taught the divine right of Kings to rule and that the peasants should be happy in their poverty and grateful for the King’s protection and willingly go off to die in his wars. And of course to actually enjoy one’s work was a direct affront to God since it was given as a curse.
All of this started to change with the Reformation and the Enlightenment. For it is the Reformation coupled with the Enlightenment that produced an American revolution that led to stability, peace and freedom under God. It should be noted that the French revolution combined the Renaissance with the Enlightenment and produced the Reign of Terror, instability, multiple constitutions and republics, the Napoleonic wars and atheism.
Now back to the question of our purpose in life. In general the obvious answer for the individual is that you will know how to fulfill your particular purpose in life by following where your talents, opportunities and desires lead you. In other words following your gifts. Many of us waste far too much time and energy fretting and worrying about finding our purpose in life when we haven’t a clue how we would recognize it if we found it. When you pray ask God to make you aware of your own talents and gifts and how best to use these to provide for yourself and your family and to honor God. Seek God with all of your heart, mind, soul and will and He will give you the desires of your heart. And remember that those who desire fame or fortune will generally find ruin in this world and in the next.